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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #151 --- The early Cymbidiums are compensating for the early winter.
November 29, 2013

Winter seems to have settled in here with a vengeance. Frozen ponds and snow on the ground just doesn’t seem right in the last week of November. I know that many of you see winter earlier then I do and are not about to offer me any sympathy. The wood that I was going to move from the backyard is still sitting there frozen to the ground and covered with snow. I’ll just have to put on my parka and boots and get on with the job. The ponds have been losing water, somewhere in the river or waterfall and it’s too cold to investigate so I’ve just shut down the pump about a month earlier than usual. Now I have to chop a hole in the ice and install the air bubblers. We need that fresh air going into the water to help keep the fish alive over the winter. It compensates for the gases being given off by the decomposing vegetation at the bottom and it provides a source of fresh oxygen for the fish. They also tend to keep a small hole open in the ice that allows the gases to escape.

Inside things are a bit more pleasant. The large Hibiscus that came indoors a few weeks ago, continues to bloom. In the corner of the solarium the early bright yellow Cymbidium Orchid is in full bloom. This year there are 26 blooms and each of those is 10cm (4") across. That’s this gardener’s reward for watering and fertilizing a container filled with less then lovely green leaves all summer. It should retain those blooms for about three months. When they are thinking about fading the later varieties should be in full bloom. It will be interesting to see how they bloom this winter as they were all transplanted and divided this summer.

You may recall several mentions and pictures of the amazing Begonia boliviensis that have been blooming on my garage wall for several years. Last year we tried a new variety Santa Cruz Sunset, that we grew from seed and they were a noticeable improvement over the previous ones. I noticed this summer that they were setting a lot of seed so I went out and collected few thousand seeds. That’s not as much effort as it sounds like, Begonia seed is very tiny, almost dust like, averaging 2,000,000 seeds per ounce. I carefully sowed a sample of them to see if they were viable. They are. The soil surface turned green in just over a week and now the tiny seedlings are starting to develop. The next big question is whether they come true from seed or will I get some strange Begonia progenitor. That will take a few weeks to discover. Once you learn how to handle the very tiny seeds they are quite easy to grow.

Time to answer a few questions. If you have a gardening question just ‘reply’ to this newsletter and send me your query. I try to answer most of the questions and the ones that I answer here are those that I think will have the widest interest. You can also find the latest garden updates on the front page of I try to change it every few days so check back often.

Tillie Asks? I broke my arm and therefore have not yet planted my daffs or muscari. I am zone 6. The ground is firm on top but soft underneath, and I can get the holes dug with my bulb auger. But am I wasting my time? On the other hand, I hate to waste 120 daffs and 200 muscari...

Ken Answers! They may bloom a little later the first year but they will be fine. I once broke out large clumps of frozen soil on New Year's day and placed the bulbs under those chunks and they still bloomed. Make sure that you water them thoroughly after planting.

John Comments ! With regard to your dead and fallen Ash tree, probably killed by the Emerald Ash Borer, - two Asian wasps (Tetrastichus planipennisi & Spathius agrili) are being tested as control methods for the Emerald Ash Borer. One working quite well in Michigan, other may not be cold hardy enough.

Ken Answers! Thanks to John who is always a ready source of current information for me.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON

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